On Thursday, Governor Kelly vetoed the Congressional Map, known as the “Ad Astra 2
” Congressional map that had been passed by an overwhelming majority of the Legislature. Unfortunately, politics tends to emerge when it comes to redistricting. Under federal law, the legislature must adjust Congressional district boundary lines every 10 years based on U.S. Census population data to make sure every American has equal representation by having districts with equal population size.
The Governor has indicated that she does not want Wyandotte and Johnson split into separate Congressional districts. However, population growth in those two counties make it legally impossible for Wyandotte and Johnson to be wholly contained in one Congressional district.
Congressional maps must undergo court review, providing a check and balance for Kansans that the map is drawn fairly and that it does not disenfranchise minority or other voting populations. I expect the Legislature to take up a veto override to move the process forward.
Condemning Price Gouging Associated with
2021 Extreme Cold Weather Event
The House Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications recommended HCR 5023
. HCR 5023
denounces the price gouging and market manipulation that occurred in February 2021. The resolution states the intent of the Legislature to support both state and federal investigations into the extraordinary price increases that resulted and hit Kansans and their communities hard. The resolution acknowledges the work of Attorney General Derek Schmidt for his efforts at investigating profiteering. A key component of the resolution is advocating for the protection of ratepayers should any corrective action be assigned. If the resolution is adopted by the House, it will be sent to the chairperson of the Federal Energy Commission and the Attorney General.
The five year payback plan the KCC recently approved for Black Hills Energy
for the massive cold weather event in February of 2021 has prompted questions and concerns by many of you. Below are some answers provided by the KCC.
How much extra profit did Black Hills earn from being paid exorbitant gas they sold from their unregulated subsidiary?
Black Hills is completely out of the gas exploration and production business and has been since 2018. They have an unregulated energy services business that provides competitive gas services in Nebraska and Wyoming, but that business lost money during Uri. There was no profit reported/recorded by Black Hills Energy because of Winter Storm Uri on its SEC reported financials for 1st
It appears they are charging a flat monthly fee per customer to recoup these supposed gas costs. Why not charge each customer extra based on per MCF usage during that period? It would appear that business/large customers will be subsidized by the small residential customer?
The Black Hills Storm Uri charge is a volumetric usage charge, that was determined for each class based on how much each class of customers used during Feb. 2021. It’s not a fixed charge. The press release and other documents explained an average customer would incur a certain cost per month, but the charge is volumetric, so each customer will incur additional charges going forward based on what they use.
Just to be clear, each individual will be charged based on their usage during the February 2021 period? Or will all customers of each "class" pay the same even though their usage may have been different?
It would be the latter. All customers of each class will pay the same volumetric rate for the Winter Storm Uri surcharge going forward. The rate for the class of customers was determined based on Feb. 2021’s usage. For instance, all residential customers will be charged the same rate going forward, all Small commercial customers will be charged a different rate than residential, but everyone in the class will pay the same rate, etc.
SPARK Advisory Panels Begin Work
This week saw the first meetings of the SPARK Advisory Panels. There are four panels made up of legislators, industry, and community members that will advise the SPARK Executive Committee on how to allocate the remaining Federal coronavirus relief funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). The panels are assigned to make recommendations on: Connectivity; Economic Revitalization; Efficiency and Modernization; and Health and Education.
SPARK Advisory Panels will be reviewing and considering funding investment ideas that have been submitted. The deadline for submitting ideas to the panels is February 16. Ideas can be submitted at the Office of Recovery’s site
. We want and encourage you to submit any ideas you may have.
Current SPARK funding opportunity
- Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) Grant. The SPARK Executive Committee approved funds to support infrastructure development and advance economic development opportunities. A total of $100 million from federal COVID-19 relief funding has been made available for eligible projects. A 25% match is required form the applicant. Those eligible to apply include county and local governments, economic development organizations, and local chambers of commerce. An informational webinar was held on February 2 and can be viewed here. The submission deadline is February 28.
House Republicans Propose
Plan to Stabilize KPERS
House Republicans have proposed HB 2561
to utilize some of the state’s budget surplus to stabilize the KPERS retirement fund, ensuring it will be there for our teachers, our firefighters, and other public employees when they need it. The plan would appropriate $1 billion to the KPERS Trust Fund, which would:
- Bring KPERS above the 80 percent funded level, a goal in ensuring the stability of retirement systems.
- Lower future costs for taxpayers by reducing the amount needed for the state’s share of employer contributions, saving the taxpayers $82 million in Fiscal Year 2023 and $429 million over the next five years
- Fully fund 2017 and 2019 payments, paying off layering payments, and eliminating the annual $25.8 million payments on delayed employer contributions
Major Economic Development
This week, the House Commerce Committee heard SB 347
, known as the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act. APEX would ensure that companies make a minimum investment in Kansas of $1 billion over a five-year-period and in exchange, would grant tax incentives to those companies. The Department of Commerce has announced that Kansas is one of two finalists for a $4 billion, 3 million square foot advanced manufacturing facility that would employ 4,000 people and create 16,000 temporary jobs during construction. SB 347
retools the current Kansas tax incentives to win this megaproject, as well as attract others in the future.
Republicans are working to incorporate accountability and safeguards into the bill, so that this economic development initiative is not designed solely for one company but is instead designed to drive economic development across the board. The tax giveaways to attract APEX projects should help all Kansas companies – not just one - with a measured corporate tax reduction. Finally, the property tax component of the bill must be addressed to ensure local control so that economic development incentives offered by the state do not place an added tax burden on residents and local business owners.
This year the page program is active again. My first pages are serving on February 14.